Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mirpur March 15, 2012

Pakistan's middle order comes good at last

No matter how many batsmen Pakistan play, middle-order collapses seem to haunt them, much to Misbah-ul-Haq's chagrin. Finally, with Pakistan playing only six batsmen, Misbah and Umar Akmal gave the team a spine

On Sunday, Pakistan won a tightly contested game, showing their resilience to deny Bangladesh an upset despite Shakib Al Hasan and Nasir Hossain's counterattack. At the post-match presentation, though, Misbah-ul-Haq was not a satisfied man, and said that in every match his team was making the same mistakes.

The cause of Misbah's annoyance was the misfiring middle order which had yet again collapsed. From the security of 160 for 1, Pakistan had slid to 198 for 7 and needed some late swinging from Umar Gul to take them to the respectability of 262 for 8. "We should have made 300," he had said.

In the one-dayers against England, Pakistan had entrusted Umar Akmal with the wicketkeeping gloves for a couple of matches, though he is at best a part-time gloveman, in order to include an extra batsman. In the first of those matches, Pakistan had so many batsmen that Shahid Afridi walked out at as low as No. 8. Still, it did not prevent them from capsizing to 130 all out. The batting continued to fumble through the England series, putting together just one century stand. These performances came after perhaps the most dramatic of their recent collapses, when they cratered from 133 for 3 to 177 all out against Bangladesh.

So when they dipped to 33 for 3 against Sri Lanka on Thursday, their fans could be excused for getting a feeling of déjà vu. Younis Khan, one of the men tasked with gluing the middle order together, had been dismissed for 2. While his slip catching remains exceptional, the runs are starting to dry up in one-dayers, with his only half-century in 12 innings coming against the relative lightweights, Afghanistan.

Though the target today was a moderate 189, only the consistent Misbah-ul-Haq inspired confidence among the batsmen to follow. The others were the dangerous but mercurial pair of Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi, the untested allrounder Hammad Azam, and wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed* who is yet to showcase his batting ability on the international stage. Time for Pakistan to regret going in a batsman short?

They did not have to, as Misbah added to his growing collection of ODI half-centuries as captain, and Umar Akmal kept his head as the pair added 152 for the third wicket. Early in the partnership, Mahela Jayawardene turned to his strike bowler, Lasith Malinga, to try and get the breakthrough. Umar Akmal, though, hit him for three classy fours in an over and grew in confidence after that. Misbah was initially tied down by some tight bowling, but he released the pressure with a big six over long-on.

It was only as the partnership neared 100 that they really started to let loose, taking Pakistan to victory in the 40th over, and securing the bonus point as well.

Misbah was now a more happy man. "It was a much-needed performance from the middle order, especially me and Umar Akmal," he said. "Most of our batsmen struggled during the England series, so I think this performance is really a confidence-builder for us, we needed that very much.

"I think the bowlers gave us an edge, especially getting them out for 188. Three early wickets, Sri Lanka were back in the hunt, the partnership really brought us back and the team got confidence from that, so it is a good thing for our team."

Another reason for Misbah to be happy is that the victory nearly guarantees Pakistan a place in the final, reducing the stakes in the marquee clash against India coming up on Sunday.

* 03.32 GMT, March 16: The article had incorrectly mentioned Sarfraz Nawaz. This has been changed.

Edited by Dustin Silgardo

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 18, 2012, 12:20 GMT

    and Younis khan just proved why Experience has no substitute. Show some faith for once

  • Huzaifah on March 17, 2012, 19:52 GMT

    There needs to be another correction. The partnership of 152 between Umar Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq was for the fourth wicket* not the third wicket ;)

  • Zan on March 16, 2012, 18:52 GMT

    If Younis doesn't perform against India drop him for Shafiq

  • Dummy4 on March 16, 2012, 16:01 GMT

    Imran nazir!!!!!!!

    maybe worth a try - shake up the top order a little???

    What do you think?

  • Abdul on March 16, 2012, 9:46 GMT

    Once again Younis tried to fail Pakistan and once Misbah saved the match. I am sure Younis has some close relative in selection committee. By looking at his form not even a minnow team would select him for ODI. People who are talking Imran nazir dont know how pathetic he is against major teams. He can play against Bangladesh or Kenya but again a tough team he is zero. We need players like Asad shafique who is a solid player. Cricket is not a game of just fours and sixes. Sometimes Indian fans comments shocks me when they blame Dhonni for playing slow, where as dhoni is a world class player and play very professional shots. And same trend is coming in Pakistani fans now, who wants to see their batsman hitting a boundary on every ball. The best thing for Pakistan could be to kick out Younis for good out of national team and never select Shoaib Malik again.

  • Dummy4 on March 16, 2012, 6:14 GMT

    True- Young promising batsmen should be given chance now so that they can cement their skills and play enough international cricket before next world cup. Younas Khan may even perform in tomorrows one day but that even should not matter because he won't be fit enough to stay until next world cup. And we need to prepare a team for the world cup and not "to win that next game".

  • Zain on March 16, 2012, 5:36 GMT

    Yet another match winning performance by Misbah!! How soon will Pakistani Fans forget about it??? probably by the next match...

  • Dummy4 on March 16, 2012, 5:34 GMT

    FAll yesterday scoring players will fail on final, Younus will score on next matches, Final will be stunning, Tendulkar will make century, Indian Premier league will be benefited, who did't understand must see POGO or Cartoon Network ;)

  • Dummy4 on March 16, 2012, 4:53 GMT

    India will show Pakistan how to play one day cricekt and Dhoni will show sucessful captaincy both in tests and one day how to be.?Misbha should learn how to play singles and keep the board moving lots of lessons to learn for pakistanis giving chance to young guns like Virat and Rohit who can blow away.Umar Akmal can watch how sensibily Virat plays and how he fields and the love for country in Indian players=Misbhaa is a tortise who can win in test but in one if DHONI Kicks 4quick wickets and score first 20overs and they sleep next30overs still he can win the game against pakistan.Pakistan has got a good bowling attach but worst captain and worst team spirit ,players like AHMED SHEHWAD and IMRAN NAZIR are out nasir jamshed and younis khan,Misbha ul haq test players are given chaces to move the crowd away from watching one day.Learn from BCCI about team selection PAK

  • Muhammadu on March 16, 2012, 4:04 GMT

    Well Done Guyz... Good Luck to Become Champions of Asia.. and Hats Off Misbah

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